The Olympic wrestling tournament features Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestlers competing in different weight classes for a total 18 gold medals. Likewise, there are 18 weight classes among the different genders and disciplines of the sport. For example, there are seven Greco-Roman weight classes, seven men's freestyle weight classes and four women's freestyle weight classes.
Wrestling: Qualifying for the 2012 Olympic Games
In order to compete in the tournament, an athlete must be nominated by his or her national Olympic committee. Each Olympic committee has a different qualifying process, and in the United States top-level athletes complete in an Olympic Trials tournament in order to earn the nomination from USA Wrestling and the United States Olympic Committee.
More than a nomination is needed to compete at the Olympic Games, though. Each country must qualify to send an athlete in a particular weight class. There are several qualifying tournaments throughout the year, including World Championships, the Pan American Qualification Tournament and the 1st World Qualification Tournament, for example. In total, 19 countries can send athletes in each weight class.
Greco-Roman vs. Freestyle Wrestling
Greco-Roman wrestling is older than freestyle wrestling, and while the two sports are similar in scoring and training practices, there are some distinct differences between the two disciplines. In Greco-Roman wrestling, athletes cannot touch their opponent's legs or use them in an offensive manor to trip or hook an opponent. A Greco-Roman wrestler can only use his upper body in offensive positions.
In freestyle wrestling, which was first introduced at the 1904 Olympic Games, wrestlers are able to use both their arms and legs to attack. In fact, the original name for the discipline was "catch as catch can" wrestling, which initially indicated that more actions and movements were acceptable in freestyle wrestling.
Wrestling Tournament and Match Format
The freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling tournaments are each formatted as single-elimination tournaments, with one exception. Any wrestler who loses to an eventual finalist enters the repechage tournament and has an opportunity to wrestle back for a bronze medal. There are two bronze medals awarded in each weight class.
Each match is made up of three two-minute periods. In order to advance to the next match, a wrestler must win two of the three periods. If a wrestler goes up on his or her opponent by by six points or more, the period will automatically be awarded to the leading wrestler
Scoring in Olympic Wrestling Matches
There are several ways to score points in Olympic wrestling matches, and scoring is fairly similar between the two disciplines. Here's a quick breakdown of different ways wrestlers can score points.
One-point moves: Push outs and takedowns without back exposure. Examples include single-leg takedowns, duck unders, and defensive counter attacks.
Two-point moves: Moves that expose an opponent's back past a 90-degree angle. Examples include gut wrenches, ankle laces or defensive counter turns.
Three-point moves: Moves that expose an opponent's back from the feet. Examples include double-leg takedowns, single-leg takedowns, low-amplitude throws and fireman's carries.
Five-point moves: A high-amplitude throw, in which a wrestler throws his opponents feet above his head, is worth five points. Examples include back saltos and back souples. In addition, a five-point throw will end a period, and the wrestler who initiated the throw is be awarded the period.
Wrestling at the 2012 Olympic Games
The wrestling tournament at the 2012 Olympic Games is scheduled to begin on Aug. 5, 2012 and conclude on Aug. 12, 2012. The matches are expected to be held in the ExCeL venue, and there are spots for 344 athletes to compete.
Sandra Johnson is a longtime Olympic fan. While working for the United States Olympic Committee and living in the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., Johnson had the opportunity to immerse herself in the Olympic Movement. Follow her on Twitter: @SandraJohnson46